16 May 2019

Frontiers of Change: 25 Years of Social Enterprise at HBS


BOSTON—On May 3 and 4 the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) marked its 25th anniversary with a two-day event, Frontiers of Change: 25 Years of Social Enterprise at HBS, which brought together over 300 alumni, students, faculty, staff, and leaders in the field.

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Attendees engaged in a series of sessions that sought to: explore the history of social enterprise at HBS and around the world over the last 25 years; assess the current state of the field and its most pressing issues; and look at new ideas and innovations to tackle society’s toughest challenges.

Organized by SEI’s faculty co-chairs Kash Rangan and Dutch Leonard and SEI Director Matt Segneri (MBA 2010), the conference gathered the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, government leaders, corporate executives, and experts in social innovation and change from academia and industry. Keynote speakers included:

Michael Brown, CEO and Cofounder, City Year
Gerald Chertavian (MBA 1992), Founder and CEO, Year Up
Stacey Childress (MBA 2000), CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund
Cheryl Dorsey, President, Echoing Green
Meredith “Max” Hodges (MBA 2010), Executive Director, Boston Ballet
Wendy Kopp, CEO and Cofounder, Teach For All
Álvaro Rodríguez Arregui (MBA 1995), Cofounder and Managing Partner, IGNIA
Tracy Palandjian (MBA 1997), CEO and Cofounder, Social Finance
Nancy Roob, CEO, Blue Meridian Partners; President and CEO, The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
Jim Shelton, Senior Advisor, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; Partner, Amandla Enterprises

The opening panel was moderated by Tom Tierney (MBA 1980), Chair of SEI’s Advisory Board and Chairman and Cofounder of The Bridgespan Group, and featured Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow, HBS Dean Nitin Nohria, and Jacqueline Novogratz (Founder and CEO of Acumen). They emphasized the urgency of confronting the major questions facing business, higher education, government, and the social sector—and, most especially, the importance of leaders being in service to society.

(LtoR): Nitin Nohria, Tom Tierney, Lawrence Bacow, and Jacqueline Novogratz

The following interactive discussions and fireside chats covered a range of topics, including:

The Future of Social Enterprise (examining the evolving role of philanthropy and cross-sector partnerships);

Charting New Paths for Social Enterprise (highlighting a new generation of alumni leaders driving change across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors);

Leading for Long-Term Change (a fireside chat among those who have built and led best-in-class organizations over the last 25 years);

The Role of Business in Society (exploring the role of business and business leaders in social change).

(L to R) Professor Mitch Weiss (MBA 2004), Rebecca Feickert (MBA 2018), Adem Bunkeddeko (MBA 2017), Jean Guo (MBA/MPP 2020), Pato Bichara (MBA 2015), Professor Julie Battilana

Breakout sessions focused on issues where alumni hold key leadership roles and HBS faculty are at the forefront of teaching and research: Business for Social Impact – The Role of Profit in Purpose; Driving Systems Change through Social Enterprise; Frontiers of Impact Management; Investing for Impact; and Transforming Education through Social Entrepreneurship. Attendees also received a newly-issued report on SEI’s impact in the world and heard pitches from the four finalists in the Social Enterprise Track of the HBS New Venture Competition.

“As the arc of the journey around social enterprise demonstrates, the intersection of business and society will continue to have increasing importance,” noted Dean Nitin Nohria as the convening came to a close. “Coordination among leaders from all sectors—coming together in common cause—will enable us to solve systemic problems and drive social change.”


Mark Cautela


The HBS Social Enterprise Initiative applies innovative business practices and managerial disciplines to drive sustained, high-impact social change. It is grounded in the mission of Harvard Business School and aims to educate, support, and inspire leaders across all sectors to tackle society’s toughest challenges and make a difference in the world.


Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 70 open enrollment Executive Education programs and 55 custom programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, shaping the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.